Adoption Triad

February 20, 2018

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­Understanding ICWA and Adoption

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 established a process that prioritizes the placement of American Indian children within their family or Tribal community. The law gives Tribes legal authority in child welfare cases in order to maintain important cultural ties. This month, Adoption Triad discusses the importance of understanding ICWA and its application to American Indian children and the adoption process.

Inherent in ICWA is the sovereignty and jurisdictional priority of the child’s Tribe in child welfare cases. Child welfare workers must follow ICWA when placing American Indian children in adoptive placements. In addition to understanding the legal requirements outlined in ICWA, there are many cultural considerations related to fostering and adopting American Indian children. The resources below are designed to inform prospective adoptive parents and child welfare workers about the application of ICWA as it relates to the adoption of American Indian children and youth.   

  1. Understand the ways in which Tribal customary adoption preserves a child’s cultural heritage while allowing for an adoptive placement in "ICWA Webinar #3 Tribal Customary Adoption" [video] from the California Indian Legal Services. 

  2. Learn about the purpose and implementation of ICWA in Setting the Record Straight: The Indian Child Welfare Act (PDF - 447 KB) from the National Indian Child Welfare Association. This 2015 factsheet discusses the historical precedent and legal considerations associated with the implementation of ICWA.
  3. Find information and resources to understand relevant considerations when fostering and adopting Native American children in Families for Native American Children by AdoptUSKids.   .



Jennifer Osborne, Content Coordinator
Child Welfare Information Gateway

Adoption Triad is distributed at no charge by Child Welfare Information Gateway (, a service of the Children's Bureau/ACF/HHS ( It provides adoption professionals with practical information to help them identify, recruit, train, and retain families for children and youth, and provides resources on all aspects of adoption for members of the adoption triad: birth parents, adopted people, and adoptive parents.

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